The other week I had dinner with a friend– a mom and top-level executive at a global company in the tech industry. With that comes a 200% commitment for getting her job done, which she couldn’t do without support from her husband, transparency and flexibility at work and setting some personal boundaries. That is a constant tension.
She related a story that brings to light the crux of the working mom reality. Having re-located for a position that offered much promise, challenge and security for her family she finds herself in a city where the majority of the fellow moms at her child’s school are stay at home moms. Upon meeting another working mom in a demanding career, her child said to her, “Mom that is so great that you found one of your kind.”
I immediately responded how awesome that was. Her son recognized what she was doing and the need for support of other women who made her same choice. She had a completely different reaction, “Oh no, it made me feel so guilty. I felt like a bad mom.” She appreciated the different way I saw it. That her son would grow up respecting what she had done and the need for others that share your experiences and understanding that are different kinds.
Upon discussion she related that hidden in all the debate about work / life balance it’s really just all about guilt. In all of my interviews with moms I do find repeatedly that while on a theoretical level we all believe it’s about making choices that are right for us — work full-time, part-time, stay at home, breadwinner, caregiver — many women feel insecure about our choices and that comes creeping out in the form of judgment.
The stay-at-home working mom who feels unimportant at the cocktail party when people ask her what she does. The working mom who feels like a bad mom every time she drops her child off at school. I don’t think anyone really believes there is a right choice…they are just making the best choices they can for the situation they are in.
20-somethings I speak to often admit disillusionment — that no choice seems like a good choice when it comes to when and how to have children and manage a career. But I also see with this generation of women a chance to say, “Hey, at least let’s take the judgment out of it. Whatever you decide. I support you and you support me.” The same goes for married or single decision/judgment. So next time you feel judged, have a little openness in realizing that it’s not so much about you as it is about that other person’s choices. And from women from all walks of life in my 40:20 Vision research I hear that in the end that you just make it work. You realize that you can’t control all the decisions you face but you can control how you react to them.
“It’s going to be okay. You make the best decision you can make at the time and the situation you are in and just know that wherever it takes you, that decision is going to take you somewhere and it will be okay.– Lori, 44, wife of 25 years, 4 children, sales rep and professional artist, Arizona